A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Kitchen is based on a 1970s-set DC Vertigo comics series that follows a group of women who take over the Irish crime family in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan while their husbands are in prison. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss, this is a dark, violent, and unexpectedly bloody film with a very high body count. People are mostly shot to death, but a couple are beaten or even pushed to their demise. An abused woman is shown being punched and kicked and is so injured that she has to go to the hospital. Language is extremely strong, with F-bombs flying in nearly every scene (as well as "s--t," "c--t," "tw-ts," "d--ks," and much more). Characters drink in nearly every scene, there are a couple of drug references, and extras smoke in the background. There's one major romantic subplot with a couple of love scenes and passionate kisses. The story's female empowerment messages ultimately devolve into a story of betrayal, corruption, and every woman for herself.
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What's the story?
Based on the DC Vertigo series, THE KITCHEN starts off promisingly: In 1978, Kevin O'Carroll (James Badge Dale), Jimmy Brennan (Bryan D'Arcy James), and Rob Walsh (Jeremy Robb) -- three Irish mob bosses from the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in midtown Manhattan -- are arrested, convicted, and sentenced to three years in prison, leaving their wives at the mercy of the crime organization. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) has two young kids to provide for; Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) is still struggling to integrate with the white Irish crime family, including her side-eyeing mother-in-law, Helene (Margo Martindale); and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) is happy to be rid of her abusive husband for a while. When support envelopes prove barely enough to cover the rent, Kathy convinces the other two to take matters into their own hands. The trio starts collecting the neighborhood protection money, planning a coup, and taking care of the community with the help of handpicked enforcers -- like kind but possibly sociopathic hit man Gabriel O'Malley (Domhnall Gleeson). But being the bosses is far trickier and bloodier, if also more satisfying, than the women imagined.
Is it any good?
The talented cast can't save this thriller from devolving into a bloody, unsatisfying mess that does nothing but show how much the fabulous leads deserve a better movie. There's so much promise in the premise, and McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss are clearly capable actors, as is the talented (and large) supporting ensemble, including Gleeson and the always scene-stealing Martindale. It's a shame that Haddish and McCarthy's considerable comedic skills aren't given more of a chance to flex. And writer-director Andrea Berloff tries to fit so much in 100-odd minutes that the film feels far longer than it actually is. The writing includes more speechifying than necessary in a movie with such overt themes. For example, Ruby's mother and an Italian mob wife both pop up to do little else than give grandiose, didactic monologues.
Claire's emergence as both a wonderful hit woman and a happy lover is the most interesting of the three leads' story arcs. Because her abusive husband is initially the biggest jerk of the film (spoiler alert: all three men eventually prove to be horrible), she seems to have an intuitive understanding of violence (and desire for vengeance) that makes her a top-notch assassin. Ruby is fascinating at first (she and Kevin are the Lovings of Hell's Kitchen, although they're clearly not a happy couple), but her character becomes one-note by the third act. Then there's Kathy, who's the glue that holds the story together. She's the real deal: She wants to do right by her family, her neighborhood, even her husband. But her naivete ruins what she holds most dear. In the end, The Kitchen doesn't highlight how the women's collaboration and power-sharing make them more effective than their husbands and instead just proves that they can be equally ruthless and willing to kill to stay on top.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the amount of violence in The Kitchen. Did any of it feel gratuitous? Does the gender (of either perpetrator or victim) affect how media violence is perceived?
How does the movie treat women? Do you consider this a feminist/female-empowering film? Why or why not?
Which characters do you consider role models? Why?
Does the movie interest you in reading the comic series it's based on? For those familiar with the graphic novel, how does the movie compare?
- In theaters: August 9, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 5, 2019
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss
- Director: Andrea Berloff
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, language throughout and some sexual content
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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